South London-based multi-instrumentalist, producer and professional sound engineer HUSSY aka Sophie Nicole Ellison is gearing up to release her debut self-titled EP on 23rd of July. Adopting her musical moniker from a T-shirt slogan, HUSSY is a totally self-sufficient artist with full creative control, something which shines through on her upcoming collection of polished, swirling, grungy guitar tunes.
We caught up with HUSSY to talk about her new record, her anticipations for her gig at The Waiting Room on 7th October, air guitar-ing to Sheryl Crow as a kid and the balancing act that occurs when you’re “DIY with high ambitions”…
Hello Sophie, let’s start from the beginning…who or what first inspired you to start making your own music?
I’ve always been a creative person and needing to make things and have a channel in that way for self expression, whether it be art or fashion when I was younger as well as music. Music was this super exciting world beyond me which combines all those things. I think a big part of it was my upbringing being so extremely isolated and not having any siblings or friends around, so I just buried myself into creating things. I would take my parent’s record collection and then dig deeper into those artists. One sticking out I remember is hearing Sheryl Crow’s ‘If It Makes You Happy’ on the stereo and playing air guitar on a tennis racket. I also had a cassette recorder and a Casio organ keyboard which I would make songs on. It took me a while to have the confidence to actually do it on my own in a public way though and it wasn’t until I studied Sound Engineering in University, I found people and started playing in bands.
You’re releasing your debut EP on 23rd July via your own label, Rock Hag (love the name). You wrote, played, recorded and produced the entire thing yourself which is incredibly impressive. What are the pros and cons of taking everything on yourself? You have full creative control, but it must be a demanding job too?
Rock Hag is my name for myself when I’m an old lady still playing guitar and rocking out, and also my view on how we need more female Mick Jaggers in the world! Pros of taking everything on yourself are: it’s incredibly rewarding and being in the studio recording, wearing many hats is my favourite thing in the world to do. Individuality is really important to me in art and I know that everything I create is unique to me and it’s genuine, otherwise there’s no point for me. I love challenging myself and digging deep that way. Cons are: I guess it’s more emotionally taxing to deal with things on your own and you’re entirely responsible for everything that surfaces under your name and output. But to be honest, I couldn’t imagine it not being that way after having done it like this for so long. Another con is it takes longer to do things that cost money on your own, you can’t split those costs so it just takes a little longer to work to afford things.
Aside from producing everything yourself – what would you say you are you most proud of when it comes to this EP?
Just having played everything myself and stuck to my ethos in that way and feeling proud of how because I did that, I achieved what I wanted to with the songs. The ultimate thing for me with doing that is achieving a songs’ intention and what I’m trying to communicate, so I feel like this process is my extension of the songs being so personal. I may completely change this method in the future and would like to collaborate a bit with friends, but so far this is what I’ve done. Me knowing the technical stuff just makes my job easier when I’m shutting my brain off to do the creative stuff. The song-writing to me is the ultimate most important thing. I’m also proud of how cohesive but varied they are and how they carry a thread between them as a whole record. It’s the first time I’ve actually felt proud of something I’ve done as a whole and I think that’s down to the fact I could show a few different sides across a long EP.
Do you have a favourite track on the EP? If so, why?
I love them all! But I really like ‘Messing’ a lot and the outro on ‘Moths’. I feel like ‘Messing’ really hits a mood, that one was one where I wrote and recorded the demo vocals at once so it’s kind of stream of consciousness created which I love. I love the outro in ‘Moths’ as I had a vague idea in my head of how I wanted that part on the drums to go but didn’t plan it beforehand. I think I did 3 takes of that and chose the best ‘jam’. I love that element of spontaneity. I feel like that outro is my nod to having listened to Helium and Pavement so much growing up, weeding its way in there.
You describe yourself as “DIY with high ambitions”. Can you elaborate on that a little more? What goals/ambitions are you trying to achieve with your music?
DIY with high ambitions is me saying even though I’m doing this all myself I don’t want it to sound like I necessarily am. It’s made DIY but I have ambition with the project. For me it’s what you make out of what you have. I want it to sound as good as possible and I work really hard to make everything considered and high fi sounding whilst my personality is in it. I just want to feel like people are connecting to and getting something out of the music, like I get so much out of connecting to others music myself.
We all know Covid-19 has had a huge impact on musicians and their livelihoods over the last year and a half. Is there something or someone who helped you get through the lockdown periods?
Working on music during that time definitely helped and I’m super grateful to have an outlet to focus on and something I’m doing that feels greater than myself during that time. Being with my partner and keeping in touch with friends, doing lots of Zoom Catan and Focaccia baking sessions, cycling and doing lots of walking whilst listening to music. I also basically finished Zelda Ocarina of Time on Nintendo 64.
What are your anticipations for your gig at The Waiting Room on 7th October? Have you missed playing live over the last year?
I hope it can go ahead safely most importantly! The last gig I played was part of The New Colossus festival in New York which was right when everything was shutting down in March 2020. I’m super excited to play again with my friends. I really missed it but have just been trying to focus on writing and finishing music in its absence. Imagine it might feel pretty surreal after it being so long.
Is there anyone who you’re looking forward to catching live again? If so, why?
There’s lots of guilty pleasure artists I didn’t see before lockdown that I would love to see given the chance now…maybe some big cheesy rock shows. There’s also been lots of artists put albums out I’ve been loving over the last year so would love to finally see those albums played live. I have tickets to see Caroline Polacheck which I know will be amazing.
Finally, any bands or artists that you recommend we listen to?
I’ve really been enjoying 70s rock at the minute which has been super uplifting to listen to. Me and Alex and Chris in the live band all went down a Steely Dan rabbithole over the last lockdown so that has been a fun journey to go down at the same time. It’s really uplifting and also exciting to see and appreciate that era of extravagance and bigness in music.
Thanks to HUSSY for answering our qustions!
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Photo credit: Pooneh Ghana